USS Arizona rests quietly in the warm still waters of Pearl Harbor. Over her stretches her memorial, with marble walls listing the names of the men who died in a moments searing explosion which ripped the ship apart and then sank her in the shallow water of the harbor. She remains today, the poignant reminder of a war that began that Sunday morning with violence and men who lost their lives before they truly had the chance to even realize they were in that war.
Two berths ahead of Arizona in the outboard position, sat USS Oklahoma, BB-37. Every bit as proud as Arizona and along side her fellow battleships, Oklahoma had served from her commissioning in 1916 to this bright morning. As the Arizona exploded a mere ten minutes into the attack, Oklahoma, having taken five torpedo hits in the first moments, rolled over into the mud. Many of her men were trapped below decks, and those who had made it above the surface faced strafing and fires from burning oil. More than four hundred of her men, including the first Chaplain killed in WWII, died in the hellish blackness below her decks. As the attack continued and in the hours that followed, thirty-two men were rescued, but time ran out for the rest. Three Medals of Honor were awarded to her crew.
Today in the harbor, USS Arizona still rests, as does one of the other large ships lost that day, USS Utah. But for USS Oklahoma, there is only a Memorial which was finally dedicated in 2007. The ship herself was righted in an amazing salvage effort that culminated in her refloating in 1943. The ship was deemed beyond repair and obsolete, and was officially decommissioned in September of 1944. In 1946, she was sold as scrap, and began her final journey to the breakers in Oakland, CA.
Some 500 miles from Pearl Harbor, where her dead had been interred in a comingled grave at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, Oklahoma foundered and sank in a storm. To this day, nobody knows exactly where. All that remains of her is a part of her mast, raised from the mud of the harbor in 2003, which stands today in Muskogee, OK as a part of a memorial.
So few of her survivors remain, but even for them, there is the overshadowing by the more well known Arizona’s crew, of whom – as of this anniversary, only nine remain of which only four made the final reunion yesterday. For Oklahoma, there are but five survivors, only three made the trip to Hawaii this year.
In another year, perhaps two or even five, there will be none left who were aboard her the morning of December 7, 1941. All that will remain is a part of a steel mast and few memorials.